In this exciting book Michel Maffesoli argues that the conventional approaches to understanding solidarity and society are deeply flawed. He contends that mass culture has disintegrated and that today social existence is conducted through fragmented tribal groupings, organized around the catchwords, brand-names and sound-bites of consumer culture. The book provides a rich backcloth against which to consider the rise of `identity politics' and the `proliferation of lifestyle cultures'.
Chapter 2: The Underground Puissance
The Underground Puissance
Aspects of Vitalism
It was Emile Durkheim who remarked that ‘if existence endures, then it is because, generally speaking, men prefer it to death’ – a sensible statement, for all its surface banality.1
There is no point in going over the difficulty some intellectuals have in understanding this ‘will to live’ (puissance) which, despite or perhaps because of its many impositions, continues to nourish the social body. Without knowing all the reasons for it, it is interesting to speculate on why this question can no longer be ignored. Let us remain within the limits of banality, if only to enrage the university ‘bean-counters’ who hide behind a scientific aura in order to disguise the triviality of their thinking. Some art historians distinguish ...